Connected vehicles (CVs) are coming. Is your community ready? Probably not. Are there things you can do now so that, when CVs do arrive, you can make the most of them? Absolutely.
While the dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) versus cellular vehicle-to-everything communication (C-V2X) debate rages on, CV technology continues to get even better and CV research and investment accelerates.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is currently sponsoring CV pilot programs at several locations, including Wyoming, Tampa and New York City, to spur discovery of what transportation and communication infrastructure upgrades are needed. Simultaneously, many other DOTs are conducting their own pilots.
The Value of Connected Vehicles
When it comes to preparing infrastructure to integrate with CVs, there is a lot of work to be done, but the benefits are numerous. Connected cars are a treasure trove of real-time data for city planners, traffic engineers, public works directors and other individuals tasked with increasing roadway safety.
For example, emergency personnel can be dispatched to the scene of an accident without anyone having to call and report it. A pothole can be detected, and repair scheduled, within seconds of a driver rolling over it. Parking availability information can be beamed inside CVs, reducing the incidence of slow, space-seeking drivers who clog city streets.
How do you prepare your city’s streets to reap the benefits of CVs? Here are four important steps to take:
1. Consult with thought leaders
Reach out to cities that are already employing Smart Cities initiatives. Here are some examples:
- San Francisco’s Open Data initiative, launched in 2009, supports Smart Cities initiatives that aim to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals and improve and increase public transportation service. Open Data initiatives, such as StreetLight Data, make data collection incredibly cost-effective.
- Los Angeles has already introduced smart parking to make the best use of space.
- Columbus, Ohio won a $40 million federal Smart City Challenge grant to incorporate Smart City technology into its transportation network.
- Detroit was the first city, in 2016, to implement a new, smart lighting system for its expressways.
2. Set specific goals and take specific steps
Envisioning desired outcomes is vital to the start of any project. “Where do we want to be?” “How do we get there?”
For CVs to function, cities must have Smart City infrastructure in place, over which the vehicles can communicate with Intelligent Warning Systems, other CVs and infrastructure.
While a Smart City network may sound like it needs to be very large in scope and capacity, it’s advisable to start small when thinking of concrete outcomes. Seek input from individuals and businesses, as well as public officials, and identify one or two initiatives to tackle first.
Is crosswalk safety a major concern in your community? Speeding in school zones? Right of way for emergency vehicles? After you’ve successfully addressed one or two problems with your Smart City network, you can scale up efficiently and confidently.
When it comes to the wireless network through which Smart Cities and CVs do their magic, think big. Billions of bytes of data will need to flow seamlessly from one source to others without delay or interruption.
3. When building your network, don’t reinvent the wheel
Municipalities are well-stocked with experts in infrastructure and technology, but no one expects transportation officials to be on the cutting edge of the digital nuts and bolts of CV and Smart City technology. This is where public-private partnerships come in.
Wi-Fi networks and cloud computing are good building blocks for Smart City development, and the greatest expertise in both is in the private sector. Partner with private industry to build your network, leveraging companies in the world of information technology that live on the cutting edge.
AT&T, Qualcomm and Cox Communications are just a few technology giants already working with cities to build and manage their Smart City networks.
4. Secure funding for the transformation
Some federal grants are available for municipalities working toward Smart City goals:
- Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA)
- Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE)
- Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act)
But federal grants will not supply all the dollars needed to make cities smart. Fortunately, there are other funding options. Raising taxes, while never a slam dunk, can help bridge the gap. Smart Cities can also collect parking fees and fines for violations much more efficiently, as well as save personnel’s time and resources.
Also, funding is another area perfect for public-private partnerships. Don’t neglect private funding.
Connected vehicles will be here before we know it, and getting ready for them is no small task. However, cities that are prepared will begin reaping the benefits of CVs immediately. Drivers and pedestrians will be safer. Traffic congestion will go down. Costs will decrease while revenue collection increases.
Brian Scharles, Sr.
TAPCO | Director of ITS Engineering & Service
An industry veteran, Brian holds three transportation technology patents and has managed ITS and signal system designs, installation and maintenance for 25 years. He has experience integrating communication systems for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation fiber optic system starting in 1990 that are still in operation today.
Brian is a member of multiple industry organizations, including the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) WI and International Municipal Signal Association (IMSA), and has won many awards.